I came to Japan, completely on a whim, in 2004, with very little knowledge of what I would find. It was 3 years before the iPhone came out, the same year Lost in Translation debuted, which, aside from fleeting images and stereotypes that I might have gained from 80’s American TV/Cartoons, besides images conjured by brands like Sony, Nikon, Toyota, or Nintendo, or even the little glimpses that I had gathered from snowboarding magazines that would sometimes feature the Japan Alps, Lost in Translation was really my only current cultural reference at the time.
To be honest, I really didn’t like the film at all the first time I saw it, which was right before I came. I was somehow sure that everything about it was wrong and caricaturized the Japanese (think short shower head scene) but I did grow to love and appreciate the film, and it did, and still does, do a good job, mostly, of portraying Tokyo, on the whole, as it is and how it feels. There was one scene in particular that really fascinated me, and that was the Charlie Brown scene at Club Air (where I’d eventually go all the time) when Charlotte introduces Bob (in inside-out orange camo t-shirt) to all her friends. I was so curious about those people. They looked like me and my friends back in Boulder, their nights looked like mine, their attitudes and conversations seemed familiar. Did these people actually exist? Were they Japanese Weirdo-Hippy-Smarty-Slacker-Punks, musicians, artists, misfits alike? Would I find them if I came? Turns out yes they were, and yes I would, and almost immediately upon arrival to Tokyo.
Where am I going with this? Well, I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes, but every now and again, not that infrequently at all actually, when you’re mixing it up in Tokyo, you come across people who just are so… deep and … interesting …just fucking so cool. And there is something about the city, the megopolocity of it, the chaotic harmony of it, combined with the ancient history that gave us the “Dogū” (go google that up and have your mind blown), that produces especially curious, talented, brilliant, often times obsessed characters like those I was fortunate to meet (Taku and Katsuyoshi) when I first arrived, like those who created the album/art-piece you see pictured here, called “Yōkai Genso” (Pantheon of Supernatural Japanese Monster/Spirit Fantasy”), and like Ryo pictured here holding it. This crazy album is covered in illustrations of yōkai (monsters) of Japanese folklore. It contains a 6-page folded insert book with liner notes and ten drawings and captions that describe each yōkai, drawn and explained by artist and folklorist Shigeru Mizuki (creator of manga series “GeGeGe no Kitarō”.) The very weirdly cool, beautifully haunting music contained within is composed in collaboration with Tokihiko Morishita, with each track being a musical interpretation of each yōkai. I mean really, how much more epically, sublimely, quite literally divinely out there can you get?
Now I realize that by going on and on about movies, and weirdos, and monsters, I’ve lost the opportunity to share much about Ryosuke Kimura, pictured here, music producer and master at Ella Records. It wasn’t my intention to write so little about him, but after having my curiosity max-piqued by this album cover, and then wondering what could be on the record, and why Ryo would have chosen it, chosen this ONE RECORD among an ENTIRE STORE of records, to be photographed with, then me going home to be totally hypnotized on listening to this record, I realize that I’ve stumbled into another one of these people, these cool AF characters who keep pushing my blinders wider and wider, enlightening me with their supernatural luminosity. Ryo is obviously one of them, maybe even a yōkai, himself.
…Anyway, to bring this thing back full circle, I’m reminded of a line from High Fidelity, which came out just a few years before Lost in Translation. Record Store owner Rob Gordon says “What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth …and by this measure, I was having one of the best dates of my life.” Every time I go to Ella, it’s one of the best dates of my life. So looking forward to being there again soon, and to see what Ryo has on the turntable next.
More Tokyo Record Style on the way…
水木しげる [Shigeru Mizuki], 森下登喜彦 [Tokihiko Morishita] – 妖怪幻想 [Yokai Genso]
Label: Victor – KVX-1039
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo
Style: Musique Concrète, Experimental, Avantgarde
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